Europe has today (Wednesday) announced new plans to tackle air pollution by setting national limits for pollutants which are harmful to human health, but they have failed to tighten up standards for the air we breathe. Friends of the Earth Scotland have criticised the European Commission’s plans for not going far enough to protect human health. According to medical research, air pollution kills off 29,000 people prematurely each year in the UK (1) and costs the UK’s public purse £15 billion each year.(2)
Concentrations of harmful pollutants are currently controlled through both European and Scottish legal limits. The European legal limits are weaker than the Scottish standards and have come under criticism for not being tight enough to prevent harmful impacts on human health. Research has shown that people are suffering from the impacts of air pollution when exposed to levels well below the European legal limits.(3)
Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said,
“We need robust legal limits in place to restrict concentration levels for the worst pollutants. The European Commission has seen detailed evidence of the harm air pollution is doing to human health; yet it has chosen to limit pollution by focusing on overall national pollution quotas instead of directly requiring cleaner air in towns and cities. This is a disappointing partial approach which will delay the day when we can all breathe easily.
“Scotland should be proud that it has tighter restrictions on some air pollution concentrations than Europe for certain harmful pollutants including fine particulates; however there are still big challenges for Scotland as we are failing to meet our own commitments to reduce air pollution in several cities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. There are 13 local councils which have pollution hotspots - places where pollution levels are too high.(4)
“Air pollution is causing an enormous health crisis: it causes cancer, worsens asthma, respiratory conditions and heart problems and more than 5 people a day in Scotland die early due to the impacts of air pollution.(5) Scotland needs to deliver on its promises to reduce air pollution.”
(1) The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution found that 29,000 deaths in 2008 could be attributed to air pollution, “The Mortality Effects of Long-term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution in the United Kingdom” (2010), avilable at http://www.comeap.org.uk/documents/reports/39-page/linking/51-the-mortal...
(2) DEFRA, “Air Pollution: Action in a Changing Climate” (2010), https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-pollution-action-in-a-cha...
(3) A study published in the Lancet on showed that prolonged exposure to small particulates may be more deadly below current EU limits than previously thought. The research examined two decades of data from over 360000 residents of large cities in 13 European countries. The full report can be found at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)62158-3/abstract
(4) 13 local authorities have declared “Air Quality Management Areas”. These are areas where levels of air pollution are above Scottish Air Quality Targets. More information on the state of air quality in Scotland can be found athttp://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/laqm.php
(5) In October the WHO confirmed that outdoor air pollution causes cancer:http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/pr221_E.pdf